In January I started to read my way through my Christmas books, starting with Logical Family by Armistead Maupin. I think I’ve read every novel Armistead Maupin has written (see my previous blog), so I was delighted he’d written Logical Family – an autobiography of his early life. It’s a fascinating read and explains how he became one of the best loved figures of the gay community in the US, through his wonderful Tales of the cIty novels set in late 1970s San Francisco.
He writes beautifully about his childhood growing up gay and doing his best to fit in in a time and a place where being out was not a possibility. His time in the military in Vietnam is vividly brought to life, as is his start in journalism dealing with anti-gay bigotry. He then makes his way to San Francisco, where the story I was much more familiar with began.
Next up was House of Spies: St Ermin’s Hotel, The London Base of British Espionage by Peter Matthews. I saw this book in the lobby of St Ermin’s Hotel in the summer when meeting my American friends Krish and Phil for dinner. It sounded right up my street, given it’s about the history of espionage told through the lens of one place. I was disappointed, however, as whilst it’s a great book about the history of British espionage, it basically has nothing to do with St Ermin’s Hotel, which only gets the odd mention in passing as the place where spies met in the bar.
Finally in January I read a lovely, gentle book about Cornwall, place and belonging – Rising Ground by Philip Marsden. This was a book I saw on a trunk in the window of my friend Polly’s parents flat in Fowey when we stayed there in August. It charts a series of local journeys made by the author as he does up his newly purchased old Cornish farmhouse, to bleak and windswept moors and to ancient sites where stones are lined up across the landscape. The writing is beautiful and makes you feel like you are there on the muddy creek next to Marsden’s house, or are freezing cold in the Cornish bleak midwinters. One for all Cornwall lovers.